Monthly Archives: December 2009

Xavier versus Butler and the Referees

I haven’t written in some time—almost two full months—and the topic that stirs my creative juices isn’t one that will change the world, but I felt compelled to write nonetheless.  This past weekend, while watching beloved UNC fall to Texas, I switched stations (UNC was taking it on the chin versus the exceedingly deep and athletic Longhorn team) to watch the end of the exciting Xavier versus Butler basketball game.  The game went right to the wire with Butler making a “last second” shot to take the lead with 1.2 seconds left.

What occurred next over the next fifteen minutes stole the excitement from the game.  The referees spent fifteen minutes reviewing the last 20 seconds of the game, watching the tape ad nauseum to determine the correct time on the clock.  Xavier had stolen the ball briefly, leading to the basketball traveling all the way back into their half of the court.  For some reason, the clock frozen momentarily during this exchange, and the referees, using stopwatches and replay materials, determined that the inadvertent stoppage of the clock was playing a crucial role in the last seconds of this game.  The referees, after conferring for what seemed like eternity, finally determined that the game’s time had expired: no 1.2 seconds left for Xavier to attempt a shot.

It is always easy to criticize those who have to make a decision, and in that spirit, I question the logic of the referees’ puzzling decision.  Why did they see it fit to steal that last second from Xavier?  Why did they believe that the integrity of the game would be best served by not giving Xavier that time?  Most watching, including legendary coach Bob Knight, who was serving as color analyst, assumed that the officials were trying to determine if there should be more time on the clock, not less.

The most disappointing aspect of this decision was that the game’s outcome wasn’t decided on the court, but at the scorer’s table.  Who knows how much time was frozen or lost, but just as important, who cares?  The clock showed 1.2 seconds: not really an awful lot of time for Xavier to do something, but enough time for them to try to do something.  Instead the officials arbitrarily ended the contest, leaving many confused and disappointed.  I don’t think that that is in their job description.

Lord knows if there were really 1.2 seconds left, but if one questions that, shouldn’t one question whether Butler scored before time expired?  If the referees have the capability to measure time accurately (with analog stopwatches) to the tenth place of a second, then can they determine that Butler scored precisely before time expired?  Of course not, so since they couldn’t do that, the officials should have allowed Xavier a chance at finishing the game on the court, not at the scorer’s table.

If the Xavier players feel cheated by the outcome they are not alone.  A game that should have been decided on the court was, like a BCS Football Championship, decided capriciously by a panel of interested observers.  What a shame.